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HP's show features different players, same agenda

Conference cranks up

This morning HP opens the doors to the first HP Technology Forum, a meeting co-produced with the Encompass user group. The production of this show is a novelty for the HP 3000 community. This is the first event related to the HP 3000 organized and scheduled by a professional user group management company, SmithBucklin. 3000 customers got a peek at this level of organization in Los Angeles in 2002, when Encompass and Interex produced HP World together. HP's training was prominent in that show, and the training opportunity is paramount in this year's Tech Forum.

People who said that HP had little experience mounting a user show might have been discounting the experience of SmithBucklin. It was the little things that stood out in that LA show, like having a badge you'd need to scan to enter a room. The system recorded who was attending. It also produced a very public count of how many bodies were in a meeting room. This year an RFID system not only tracks atttendance, but can call up an attendee's schedule so you can remember where you're supposed to be.

Speaking of little things, the 3000 community is likely to be a little thing at this week's show, too. Only six HP 3000 division staffers are in evidence on the speaker list. It's not for a lack of total HP presence, though: more than 75 percent of the 236 listed speakers are from HP. Migration advice is what HP is bringing to Tech Forum attendees who know about the 3000's transition.

And Tropical Storm Wilma is well south of Cuba, posing little chance of turning into something to hit Orlando before the weekend. That didn't keep the local TV news from leading off with the "threat," of course. One hurricane cancellation already lies in the Tech Forum's history. But the 3000 community is getting adept at weathering cancellations.

Today I'm scheduled to talk with Kristi Browder, the board president of Encompass, and Chris Koppe, Speedware marketing director and a new director on the Encompass board. We hope to find out more about what Encompass wants to do for the 3000 customer in transition, as well as those customers who don't plan to move away from the platform. It's easy to believe that Encompass wants to embrace the Interex members now cut off from the user group experience. Those volunteer hours are essential to a well-run user group, even one that's steered by "HQ" help, as they call it, from a company the size of SmithBucklin.

To be clear: the conference's HQ functions are the equivalent of what Interex staff did at HP World. A very smooth bus transfer, free, carried me to the hotels to the north of the vast convention center. There's also 13,000 members of Encompass to draw upon for volunteering. Advocacy happens in "campgrounds" here, we hear.

Later this week HP will mount its migration panel. This year's attendees include some returning faces from last year's lineup at HP World: Dick Drollinger of 3000 ISV Summit, Ken Porter of the City of Houston, Matti Meriläinen of Oy Porasto Ab. Christian Scott of ISV SoftVoyage and Donnie Harmon of the Thompson Group are this year's new faces.

There's also a press dinner on Tuesday, something that signals an increased HP corporate presence. But for the ultimate increased presence, there's Tuesday's CEO keynote from HP's Mark Hurd. We don't expect any surprises in his talk, but the attendance of the HP CEO was an infrequent element at Interex's HP World shows. Today's CEOs are the highest-priced talent, delivered from deal to deal while on the road to cement relations with top customers. That HP will do this kind of cementing in late October, as its 2006 planning is still in flux, indicates a different level of dedication to the user group show. As well as a dedication to the fiscal 2005 year's final numbers, of course.

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